WRC dismisses man's discrimination claim against Waterford restaurant over mask rules

George-Calin Breban took a discrimination action against Deli-Wine John Street Limited, trading as Burzza, in Waterford city, after staff told him he must wear a mask, or show proof of exemption, when entering the establishment
WRC dismisses man's discrimination claim against Waterford restaurant over mask rules

Gordon Deegan

A Cork man has admitted to using a recording device to record all interactions in establishments to further his multiple discrimination claims concerning the demand to wear Covid-19 masks indoors.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), George-Calin Breban admitted that he has filed "six or seven other claims with the WRC for adjudication" concerning the issue of mandatory wearing of masks indoors during the pandemic.

WRC Adjudicator Niamh O’Carroll has thrown out Mr Breban’s discrimination claim under the Equal Status Act over the issue of mask-wearing against Waterford restaurant firm Deli-Wine John Street Limited, trading as Burzza.

As part of his unsuccessful discrimination claim against the popular pizza and burger restaurant on John Street in Waterford city, Mr Breban admitted at a hearing that he turned on a recording device prior to entering the restaurant on August 28th, 2021.

Mr Breban, with an address in Dunmanway, submitted a transcript of that recording into evidence. He admitted he had also recorded all interactions he has had in other establishments in relation to the issue of mask wearing.

In the case, Mr Breban stated in evidence that he suffers from a condition which prevents him from wearing a mask. Mr Breban claimed he was discriminated against on the grounds of disability in relation to the provision of a service.

Exemption

During the hearing, he produced a medical certificate dated November 17th, 2020 from a Dr Thomas O’ Donnell, Dunmanway Medical Centre, which set out: "This is to certify that the above named suffers from severe anxiety on wearing a mask."

However, Mr Breban, by his own admission, refused to disclose to the restaurant on the day that he had a disability and refused to produce his medical certificate.

Ms O’Carroll stated the only information Mr Breban gave the staff was that he was exempt.

On August 28th, 2021, Mr Breban was in Waterford with three friends and they went to Burzza and sat outside.

The three ordered their food and just before the food arrived, Mr Breban went inside to wash his hands. Mr Breban did not know where the restrooms were, so he asked the barman if he knew where they were.

The barman replied "yeah, do you have a mask?" to which Mr Breban said: "I'm exempt".

Almost instantly a waitress came from outside and Mr Breban told her he was exempt, with the waitress asking him to provide proof.

Mr Breban told the hearing he did have his medical certificate with him on the day, however, he refused to show it to the waitress at the restaurant. Instead, he explained that under Article 9 of GDPR, she cannot process special category data.

The waitress explained that it was a policy of the restaurant that people had to wear a face mask indoors.

'Reasonable accommodation'

Mr Breban said he wished to wash his hands before eating, and as there were no facilities outside, he had to go indoors. He argued, in that regard, the restaurant failed to provide reasonable accommodation to him.

Everyone that was eating indoors was allowed to sit for 45 minutes and eat their food without a mask, Mr Breban argued, adding that being forced to disclose his medical condition/certification deprived him of his dignity.

There was no appearance for, or on behalf of Burzza at the hearing.

In her findings, Ms O’Carroll stated that at the time, patrons would have had to show their vaccination status before being allowed to eat indoors, and Mr Breban refused to disclose his vaccination status at the hearing.

Ms O’Carroll found that, based on the medical evidence adduced at the hearing, Mr Breban is suffering from a disability, however, Burzza could not have discriminated against him on the grounds of that disability because they were not informed of it at the material time.

Ms O’Carroll said that for Mr Breban to state "I am exempt" is not sufficient.

She added that she was satisfied Mr Breban had failed to establish a prima facia case of discrimination on the grounds of disability, dismissing his claim.

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